Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Teens and Sex -- TV Made 'Em Do It

RE: The recently reported study on Teens, Sex and TV

Let me start out by saying that I'm not an advocate of teenage sex.  But I am an advocate of teenage sex education.

I do not believe that teens should be watching sexually explicit programming, either, although this just published study included "Friends" in that category.  I was thinking HBO's Real Sex. Or daytime soaps.

My beef is that because the study was published in a reputable periodical, "Pediatrics," and widely reported on television and the newspapers, we're supposed to believe it's unbiased and true.

The survey, in case you missed the massive PR assault, was about teenagers, sex and tv. It was conducted over the phone.  With parental consent.

"A phone sex survey? Sure, Ralphie, you have my permission."

It was supervised by the Rand Corporation for the National Institutes of Health. 

The Rand Corporation spends the bulk of its time doing research for the Air Force and other companies that make weapons of mass destruction.

So I can't help but wonder who got so fascinated with teenagers and their sex lives that they sought funding from the NIH to do a survey. 

"You hear the tapes yet, Milt? Pretty hot stuff, don't ya think?" 

Basically the investigators called up the kids, asked them what programs they watched and what kind of sex they had had. 

"Have you been to third base, Sally? How bout them Cubs?" 

Then they called the kids back a year later and asked them the same questions again. 

"Hi, remember me, Timmy, we talked about your sex life last year.  So, what're you wearing this year?"

Afterward, they began the daunting task of comparing the results.

"What's with rich white kids and Ted Koppel? I don't see it." 

Supposedly they somehow adjusted for the usual things like income [was there enough money for a plasma TV],background [do you summer in the Hamptons?] parental involvement [did Pop make pancakes on Sundays?], education [do you hate math?], religion [You worship Britney Spears, huh?] and each kid's position along the popularity food chain at school.

"Muffy, would you consider yourself a druggie, a sporto, a princess, a ho, or a geek?

I wonder how they screened for kids who had been molested or raped prior to the survey. 

"Did you tell your parents about the creepy guy? Oh, the creepy guy's your uncle. Well, then."

The calls took place in 2001 and 2002. So for the last two years they've been taking all the data they've gathered and trying to make sense out of it. 

"Oh, good, that girl was a virgin, so as far as I'm concerned we can count her twice."

And they came to the conclusion that the more sexually explicit the television watched, the more sex the kids were having.

I don't buy it. 

I would argue that you could make a case for interpreting the results the other way around. 

The more sex the kids were having, the more sexually explicit TV they were watching.

At what point in the survey were the researchers able to determine when the sex went farther and the tv got more explicit?

Which came first? Chicken. Egg. Or egg. Chicken. 

So, Miguel, was it before the Seinfeld re-run or after it that you and your girlfriend kissed for the first time?

Like a teen would remember.

Gimme the phone.  Let me talk to those kids. Heck, let me review the results of those surveys.

Betcha a million bucks I can show how TV is a reflection of what kids are doing.  And not driving them inexorably to do it.

But let's just agree to disagree about that. 

Because there is one real big issue that negates all their numbers and observations and conclusions.

There are almost 300,000,000 people in this country. Of those, about half are children. That's about 150,000,000. About half of those are teens. That's about 75,000,000.

You know how many kids the Rand Corporation called up?

1762. That wouldn't fill up a high school gym.

1762 is about 1/50000 of the teen population in the US.

"Okay everybody, count off by fifty thousand. All the number ones come see me in my office."

1762.  That's only about 35 kids per state. Hardly a representative sample of the teen experience with sex and television in the country.

Any more than asking the opinions of a bunch of kids standing in line at MacDonald's, the video store, or hanging out at the mall.

As usual, when you scratch these studies they raise more questions than they answer. 

Just what were the burning questions this study was supposed to answer in the first place?

I bet they didn't have anything to do with kids, sex, or TV.





sistercdr said...

This is simply the best commentary I've seen on that survey.  Brava!

magogos said...

Loved the commentary, too, and agree such studies are usually stupid, but as a past worker in the field of sex education for teenagers, I believe that watching sexually explicit tv does increase teenage sexuality. But so does the whole culture kids live in- to blame one thing is ludicrous(sp?) Probably funded by Republicans:) Margo

sharkie412 said...

I'm partial to what you wrote. I think as a teen I was more influenced by TV into having a better body and being sexy and all that crud. But I wasn't into the whole gotta have sex and gotta have it now if I happened to see something like that on TV. Its a natural part of growing up, and sex in the media may be one of the reason teens are having more sex. But they definitely should have polled more people...less than 1800 were polled. Not really a good enough number to interpret the results as they did. As you said the results could be interpreted the other way. Definitely, just as easy to go one way than go the other. My bottom line:
What a waste of money that poll seems to be.

judithheartsong said...

oh. Great entry Mrs. L.........
I think you are right on target and I appreciated your take on this.

lwhitewave said...

The Rand Corporation spends the bulk of its time doing research for the Air Force and other companies that make weapons of mass destruction.

Huh??? Why are they involved in this study to begin with, unless it's to create a wmd that targets our psychology...10001 ways to drive the mass public crazy.
You know, I'm very tired of studies and polls.  I STILL haven't been called...ever!  For anything!  And people are making decisions based on MY opinion??  Right!  Tell me another one!

lamove04 said...

I agree that these studies are often ridiculous, and grossly simplify other factors that may skew the results.  Bottom line: sex sells, advertisers want to sell to teens, so sexy TV and videos will continue no matter how many studies get done.  --Albert

hempenhomespun said...

Kids don't have sex because they see sex on TV.  Kids have sex because they're bored because they DON'T have cable.

merelyp said...

I had sex when I was a teenager because my tv choices were hullabaloo and the news in Viet Nam.